The truth about how Spain is changing

Day 7: Quezada begs forgiveness as prosecutor and parents' lawyer squabble over how she killed Gabriel

Sep 18, 2019, 12:12 pm
Chronicle: Court hears extraordinary discrepancies between the Prosecutor's Office and the private prosecution regarding the precise details of how Gabriel Cruz died. The verdict and sentence hang on those facts.

The seventh day of the trial began with the clerk of the court reading out an unpublished letter written by the defendant and sent to Gabriel Cruz's father, Ángel, on April 17, 2018, just two months after the crime. In the missive, Ana Julia Quezada told Mr. Cruz that "I have no excuses for what I did", "I regret all the damage I have done" and that "I ask with all my heart for forgiveness".

She denied her actions were premeditated: "I could not find the strength to tell you".

"Fear blocks you and that is what happened to me".

Most of the morning was devoted to the closing remarks to the jury from the Public Prosecutor's Office, the private prosecution brought by the parents and the defence, who each spoke for about an hour. Notably, there was a big legal tussle between the Prosecutor's Office and the private prosecution—not the defence—about how Quezada actually killed Gabriel.

"The motive is in her mind", said the prosecutor, Elena María Fernández. Her rhetoric was full of technical references but she argued it has been "sufficiently demonstrated" that Ana Julia Quezada murdered Gabriel Cruz on February 27, 2018, shortly after arriving at the Rodalquilar property owned by the family of her then partner, Ángel Cruz, the father of the child.

"Who can kill a child?", she asked. The defendant "acknowledges the fact she killed [him]" and has shown "an unfair aversion and ill will" along with "a perverse intent". The emotional bond between father and son "made her uncomfortable" and she decided to "break it" so she could resume her own romantic relationship with Mr. Cruz.

She is a woman who is "absolutely calm, cold and oblivious to the pain of the mother", Patricia Ramírez, "fully aware of what she wanted to do", who has "lied from the start" and only remembers "what interests her" with a "feigned anguish".

She left her first young daughter in the Dominican Republic, Francisco Torres said, for the private prosecution, "she only saw her once in four years" and got involved in prostitution in Burgos, later marrying Miguel Ángel Redondo.

Her young daughter died a few months after she brought her to Spain but the couple had another daughter, Judith Redondo Quezada.

Ms. Redondo testified there were "years in which she did not speak to her mother" and Quezada used the same words to file a police complaint in Burgos that she has now used to try to implicate Gabriel in his own death: "Black woman, go back to your country".

"Not everyone is fortunate to have an easy life", said Mr. Hernández Thiel in defence of his client: everything related to Burgos is irrelevant to this case. She has no criminal or police record and while in her youth she worked in prostitution, she was married to Mr. Redondo for 17 years.

"Her relationship with her daughter was not perfect? That happens in many families". As the lawyers mentioned the defendant's youngest daughter—who died accidentally in Burgos—and her time as a prostitute, Quezada began to sob and the judge asked her to compose herself.

There is "a large gap in the Civil Guard investigation" on the issue of the movement of the tools between the two houses in Las Hortichuelas and Rodalquilar, "a deserted, remote place", said Mr. Torres, that "no relative could reach" that afternoon.

"She is increasing her alibi" by suggesting she had invited Gabriel's grandmother along to paint the house that evening.

Why did she do it that day when she had been alone with Gabriel "on many occasions", Mr. Hernández Thiel wondered. How did she know that Mabel, Gabriel's cousin, was going to refuse an invitation to have lunch with them in Las Hortichuelas?

She was at Rodalquilar for almost 3.5 hours that evening.

The Prosecutor's Office argued three types of defencelessness have been proven, which would allow for a murder conviction under the Spanish Criminal Code: surprise, the family relationship and the helplessness of the victim, with an adult attacking a "trusting, innocent" 8-year-old boy who only weighed 25 kilos, "in his close family environment". It was a "sudden, unpredictable" attack at a time when the defendant was "physically larger" than she is today.

The outcome of the trial revolves around how Gabriel died but the Public Prosecutor and the private prosecution disagree on the details.

Mrs. Fernández argued, based on the autopsy performed by the coroners office—who together have carried out "thousands of autopsies, hundreds of autopsies on children"—that the only cause of death was anoxic anoxia, a lack of oxygen to the body: Quezada suffocated Gabriel using "disproportionate force" in a single attack that lasted between 10 and 20 minutes. His head injuries are compatible with the application of that force on the child and "repeated blows" against the floor or wall.

"The boy struggled an awful lot", she said: "it is not easy to kill a child or anyone", "of course he suffered".

Mr. Torres, however, argued—based on an expert report from internal medicine and intensive care specialists—that Gabriel "was beaten violently and repeatedly about the head" with the axe, that he remained "in a confused state" for between 45 and 90 minutes, "agonising", and that Quezada then finally killed him on the ground "on her knees on top of him" by suffocating him, before undressing him, trying to dismember him and "mopping the floor a lot".

The private prosecution brought by the parents believes Quezada employed extreme cruelty, another way for the jury to reach a murder conviction. "Gabriel might have been saved", said Mr. Torres.

Both parties argue their versions are compatible with the wounds described in the autopsy. Although expert testimony was behind closed doors yesterday, this journalist has been able to verify both the autopsy report and the expert report provided by the private prosecution.

The autopsy dates Gabriel's death at between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on February 27, 2018, less than an hour after he left his grandmother's house in Las Hortichuelas in the company of Quezada.

"None" of the wounds "are compatible with a blow with a blunt object", said Mrs. Fernández defending "a totally contrary version" to that of the parents' lawyer: they were produced by "pressure exerted against the ground". "There are no symptoms of a beaten child". The other experts "are surely excellent doctors in their specialties" but have an "absolute ignorance of forensic medicine" and "have not taken part in the autopsy of the child".

Mr. Torres said "I understand absolutely nothing" about the legal tussle with the prosecutor. It seemed strange to him that Mrs. Fernández had decided to "take on this annoying lawyer" instead of the defence and the defendant. It was "absolutely surreal". Autopsy doctors see bodies but "do not see how a person begins to extinguish himself".

"The point of view of the forensic examiners makes no sense from the point of view of logic".

Neither could they agree on Gabriel's DNA and the axe: according to the Prosecutor's Office, it got on to the tool because the defendant used it later to try to cut his left arm off; according to the private prosecution, "the DNA is there from the whack she gave him with the axe". Gabriel's fingerprints are not on it.

Quezada's defence team was delighted with the "the different versions" of the parties to the prosecution, of course, and noted the "good judgment" of the forensic examiners who carried out the autopsy described by the public prosecutor. Esteban Hernández Thiel flatly rejected the arguments alleging premeditation, the preparation of any plan to kill Gabriel or extreme cruelty.

"I think we can all regret the death of a child in such tragic circumstances", he said, adding that "if it was premeditated, it was the biggest cock up we've ever seen here".

Civil Guard forensic specialists testified that neither Gabriel's blood nor his DNA were found on the mop, on the ground or on the stones from the farm, and there was no trace of toxic substances in the child's hair from the previous 12 months.

"There are a thousand other ways to do this if everything was so planned", he argued: "wouldn't it have been simpler to hit him with an axe or a shovel on the head?", when all those tools and more were available to her on the property that day.

The forensic examiners themselves testified, said the lawyer, that the method she used to kill Gabriel was "extremely strange".

If she was so determined to dismember Gabriel—as the private prosecution argues—"why didn't she keep going?" with the evil plan in the 3.5 hours she had to carry it out before Mr. Cruz called her at 6:55 p.m. on February 27, 2018 to tell her that the grandmother could not find the child.

The jury will have to decide if Quezada's intention was only to silence Gabriel, as she has argued from the beginning, or if that changed at some point and she contemplated the possibility that her actions might kill him. Such a change would result in her intent leading to a conviction for voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, not murder.

If, as the private prosecution maintains with its expert medical report, the defendant gave the child "a brutal beating" first, where is the proof, Mr. Hernández Thiel wondered—"some blood would have splashed out"—and where are the bruises from the blows on Gabriel's body?

The defence argued she only suffocated him for two to three minutes, not the 10 to 20 minutes the Prosecutor's Office maintains. "Personally, I know the world freediving champion", said Mr. Hernández Thiel, "a Colombian lady", and she can only hold her breath for three minutes.

The way Quezada killed Gabriel coincides "we believe fully so" with the forensic account from the coroner's office.

"When there is an accident, one asks for help", noted Mr. Torres.

The hole she dug to hide the body—just two meters from the door of the room where she killed him—was only 10 cm deep. She covered it as she did with pieces of wood and "left the tools and everything there", according to her lawyer.

Regarding Quezada's actions in the following two weeks—which all of Spain witnessed on television and that in the trial have taken on the form of charges of psychological abuse of the parents and a crime against moral integrity—the concept of intent once more raised its head: " Did she want to cause harm [to the parents, on purpose] or did she [just] want to cover up what she had done?"

"I am not going to be the one who praises" her conduct in that period, said Mr. Hernández Thiel, but if she wanted to "lose" her mobile phone on purpose, why did she leave it near where it would be found by a friend half an hour later, after announcing to everyone that she had lost it?

"Not even the Civil Guard is infallible" he stated; they "do not even search the property in Rodalquilar".

"How do you tell your partner 'I have just killed your son'?"

She left the white t-shirt "about a kilometre from Sergio's house" [her ex-husband].

She took Mabel, Gabriel's young cousin, to Rodalquilar to stack wood on top of the boy, the prosecutor said. She adopted a "proactive" attitude, took up "the role of spokesperson" and even directed "the work of the Civil Guard".

When the time came to dig up the body "she didn't know what to do with it" and ended up driving to the other house where she lived with Mr. Cruz, in Vicar. After her arrest on March 11, 2018 in that town, "before talking to her lawyer, she already saying it had been an accident", said Mr. Hernández Thiel.

During the crime-scene reconstruction that took place on March 13, 2018 in the presence of the investigating judge and the prosecutor: "she does not make the slightest reference to the child she has just killed, even less so to the mother", said Ms. Fernandez.

The parents "had to endure months and months of TV talk shows" and speculation about what had happend and "months and months" waiting for a judge's authorisation to cremate their son's body, Mr. Torres argued: they have been "shattered for life, especially the mother".

Last week Quezada displayed the "the face of an absolute murderer" while Gabriel's mother, Patricia Ramírez, testified in court.

"How can one be so perverse, so mean?", the lawyer asked: "we are convinced she is a real murderer".

"This woman has no right to breathe the same air that we do […] she will surely kill more children. I am convinced Gabriel is not the first".

The seventh day ended as it had begun, with Quezada begging the forgiveness—this time out loud in her final remarks before the court—of Gabriel's relatives, his parents, her own family and daughter, and "all of Spain" for what she did.

"May God forgive me".

The Prosecutor's Office and the private prosecution have maintained their requests for a conviction for murder and a whole-life prison sentence, with the aggravating factor of the close family relationship between Quezada and Gabriel.

The defence is seeking 3 years for reckless manslaughter or, alternatively, 15 years for voluntary manslaughter. The defence sees mitigating factors in her confession, in her acting in the heat of the moment, and in her acting under the influence of (prescription) drugs in the two weeks of the search for Gabriel, in relation to the charges of psychological abuse against the parents.

Ana Julia Quezada (Dominican Republic, 1974) stands accused of murder, in relation to the death of 8-year old Gabriel Cruz in March 2018, two counts of psychological abuse in relation to the boy’s parents, Patricia Ramírez and Ángel Cruz, and one count of a crime against moral integrity, in relation to the father.

On Wednesday morning, the jury will be handed the list of questions they must decide upon at the Provincial Court in Almería and will begin their deliberations. The 9-person jury—seven women and two men—is presided over by judge Alejandra Dodero.

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